Saturday, June 15, 2019

Coveting His Neighbor's Wife

Advice columns show us a slice of American life, a glimpse into people’s lives,. It shows us how people live their everyday lives... even if, at times, we would largely prefer that they didn't.

In many cases, we are relieved that the people who write to these columnists are not our personal friends. Today is one of those days. A new mother writes to Carolyn Hax about an uncomfortable social situation. She calls herself, Complicit in Mommy Shaming:

I had a baby six months ago. Because of luck, general good health and diet/exercise, I gained a fairly small amount of weight during pregnancy and shed it pretty quickly afterward.

My friend "Mia" is 18 weeks pregnant with her first baby and has gained substantially more weight than I did but looks great and apparently is in good health. Our families get together often, and her husband has taken to casually interviewing me about how I stayed in shape through pregnancy.

He is totally transparent — he only asks when Mia is in the room, presumably either to help motivate her or to outright shame her for gaining weight.

I don't want to be complicit in this. What should I say to Mia's husband, and do I say it in front of her or privately? I don't just want him to stop asking ME for advice, I want him to stop shaming her altogether.

Is the man shaming his wife? Yes and No. He is, but there is more to it. The man is commenting on the physical attributes of another man’s wife. It is a flagrant breach of decorum. He is coveting his neighbor’s wife. It is beyond poor form; it is vulgar and crude.

In the best circumstances, CMS should simply cease socializing with the couple, especially with the husband. She does not need to say anything to Mia’s husband. Certainly, she should not take him aside and engage in an intimate tete-a-tete. It’s the one thing she should never do… because it implies that she it taking a step toward conversing with him one-to-one.

In fact, CMS’s husband should have noticed that something was going on. And he should have been the one to call out Mia’s husband. One is slightly surprised that CMS says nothing about her husband, about his awareness of the situation and about his reaction.

When another man is openly admiring your wife’s physical attributes, you ought to take offense and to call him out… if not to dismiss him from your social circle.

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